Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Find Your Way Back

My garage. Big fun.
I have been banging my head on the wall for the last week. And not just because I'm tired of packing boxes, and searching real estate listings, and filling out loan documents.

I've been struggling with the next chapter in my novel. I put my characters in a situation that makes sense, but they aren't doing what I want them to do. They're meandering, saying inane things and generally, being rather boring.

Now this is a first draft. So to a certain extent, I've given myself permission to plow through and not have everything be perfect. But up until this point, everything has been going pretty smoothly and this draft was turning out much cleaner than I thought it would. Which makes it very frustrating that my characters would choose to screw things up now, in chapter 10!

I know where the story ends. I know what has to happen in my climax. I even know what's going to happen in chapter 11. In fact, the next chapter is mostly written. But this chapter? So. Frustrating.

What do you do when your story gets off track? And how do you find your way back?

And just for fun, a few links:

Summer Camp for Bookish Kids
Oh, to be 12 and spending a summer with Lauren Oliver, Gordon Korman and 13 other amazing authors. Why wasn't this sort of thing available when I was younger?

Hunger Games Photos
Have you seen these? I'm trying not to get excited because the movie can't possibly be as good as the book is in my mind. But these stills make me optimistic. I'll definitely be seeing it when it's released.

Another Self-Publishing Success Story
British writing team Louise Voss and Mark Edwards scored a four-book deal with HarperFiction after their Kindle UK e-book sold more than 50,000 copies in June. What they need to do is write a how-to manual for all of us who want to know how on earth they managed that many sales!

Oh, and for those who are interested, the deal on the house in Santa Ynez fell through. Thank goodness. Because we ended up getting the perfect house in "downtown" Los Olivos -- a cute Victorian town of about 1,000 people, ten minutes from our house in Solvang. Los Olivos Sherrie? Uh, no. Guess I'll just have to be Sherrie Petersen for now. 

Here's a link to the Los Olivos website. Check it out. You'll fall in love. And yes, you can come visit. :D


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Oh man, the rollercoaster ride of getting a new place and moving! But it sounds like it all worked out for the best.

And chapters that are stubborn should have to sit in the time-out chair for a while. Just sayin... :)

p.s. Seems like there's another story every day (on the self-pub-success-stories)! said...

I'm having this problem at the moment too. Sometimes the characters jump off the page and take over. But in this case I have two young people meeting for the first time. There's sort of a spark, especially for him, but not her. He doesn't fit her image of perfect. But I'm pretty sure they'er going to get together later.

In my case I think I need to go sit down somewhere and let the scene play out in my mind. I think I've had too many ideas for them and maybe I'm forcing them to be something they aren't.

I know I really need to back off and let the characters show me who they are and how they want to play the scene.

Whenever I force things, I muddy the characters like a water color picture you've brushed over too many times. Sometimes you have to let go.

storyqueen said...

When this happens to me, I just skip ahead to somewhere else in the story. I mean, if it's the first draft and all...

Good luck!


Barbara Watson said...

The place you're moving sounds beautiful - like where I should live someday. Enjoy.

You have more experience writing than I, but as Shelley said, skip ahead. Leave this pesky chapter as is for now. When you come back to it, you'll have it just as it needs to be.

Kristan Hoffman said...

:/ I don't have a good answer for you. I know you think the situation makes sense, but does it make sense for these characters? For me, when I get "stuck," that's usually the problem. Logically it makes sense, but it's not really true to the characters, so I need to go back and revise a bit. They're often only a little bit off from where they need to be!

Good luck. (And congrats on the new house. Los Olivos sounds way cuter than Santa Ynez. :P)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Maybe you should just write the next chapter and see if that opens things back up. I'm about to do that myself. I have an action chapter coming and can't seem to get motivated on the one I'm working on first. (I'll take my own advice and write the other one today!)
Or it may be that you've just got toooooo much on your plate, what with moving and all. A little break, perhaps?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MG Higgins said...

I have to take a break when this happens. A couple of days away from the ms usually clears my head. Good luck with your move! I'm going to check out your link to Los Olivos. I love old Victorian towns.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I just picked up an old manuscript that I had abandoned quite a long time ago because it wasn't going somewhere I wanted to go.

The beginning is good (for me) and I want to write that story. So now, I'm trying again, editing as I read through it. We'll see what happens when I reach the current end of the ms. I don't even remember what was wrong about where it was going.

I've also had a character run away in the middle of a book and two new characters appear out of that episode. I got him back, eventually had him not run so far away and killed off one of the two new characters. But it was tough figuring out what all needed to happen to make it work and that didn't come until draft 6 or 7.

Kelly Polark said...

When I write first drafts, I do just plow ahead and fix later plus add more description later. Otherwise I'd be sitting there and sitting there! :)
Congrats on your new place!!! Good luck with all the crazy moving stuff!

Laura Pauling said...

I will plow through the chapter the best I can and come back to it. Kind of like a place holder. Usually down the road I figure out how to solve it. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Um. I have no solution. We are in mid-househunt and I haven't written much. Supposed to be revising Evangeline, but it's slow going. Hard to concentrate on anything but house stuff.

So I totally commiserate, but am completely useless on how to help you.

Happy settling in!

Krispy said...

Oh, I know exactly how you feel right now. I'm NaNo-ing but I'm stuck too because things keep getting off track. Normally, I'd take a brief break, but the Camp doesn't allow that. So I guess the only choice is to grit my teeth and plow through. :P

Good luck with yours! (oh and Los Olivos is adorable! Congrats!)

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I know exactly what you mean about getting stuck in a chapter. But yes, plow through it, and come back toit later. (Especially since you know Chapter 11 and the climax and ending!) :-) Good luck with that and the move--looks beautiful!!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Sherrie, Funny enough, I just did a guest post on this subject for Bring More YA to PA. Basically, I said that sometimes, when your characters won't do what you want them to do in order to advance the plot, it's because you're trying to get one of the characters to act OUT OF character. The plot is set and established, but somebody won't (CAN'T) do what you want him/her to do in order to make it happen.

It can often be fixed by looking at the situation in a different way. What would the character do instead -- and how can that work within the plot you had established? Sometimes the characters know the path to getting there better than you do.

Here is the guest post, if you're interested:

Susan R. Mills said...

Good luck with the move. I've obviously missed a lot of news around here while I was away. Also, good luck with your chapter 10. It's funny because I'm having the same problem with my chapter 6. I also have the next chapter already written, and I know exactly where the story ends, but this chapter 6 is being difficult. Not sure what the deal is.

Lydia Kang said...

I'm having the same problems in my WIP! The characters are NOT behaving. Grr.

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